Words of the Flapper Era

Ah, the flapper era! What a great successful fad. While the legacy of the flapper era appears in fashion and music it also appears in our language. We have some wonderfully creative words and phrases remaining from this era of American history. I’ve written earlier about the Bee’s Knees. Now it’s time to share a few more entries. Thanks to BookFlaps for compiling the list.

Which one can you use in an email today? Leave a comment below or Tweet using #FlapperVocab

  • Absent Treatment—Dancing with a bashful partner.
  • Airedale—A homely man.
  • Alarm Clock—Chaperone.
  • Anchor—Box of flowers.
  • Apple Knocker—A hick; a hay-shaker.
  • Apple Sauce–Flattery; bunk.
  • Barlow—A girl, a flapper, a chicken.
  • Bank’s Closed—No petting allowed; no kisses.
  • Barneymugging—Lovemaking.
  • Bee’s Knees—See “Cat’s Pajamas”
  • Bell Polisher—A young man addicted to lingering in vestibules at 1 a.m.
  • Bean Picker—One who patches up trouble and picks up spilled beans.
  • Berry Patch—A man’s particular interest in a girl.
  • Berries—Great.
  • Biscuit—A pettable flapper.
  • Big Timer—(n. masc.)—A charmer able to convince his sweetie that a jollier thing would be to get a snack in an armchair lunchroom; a romantic.
  • Billboard—Flashy man or woman.
  • Blushing Violet—A publicity hound.
  • Blouse—To go.
  • Blow—Wild party.
  • Blaah—No good.
  • Boob Tickler—Girl who entertains father’s out-of-town customers.
  • Brush Ape—Anyone from the sticks; a country Jake.
  • Brooksy—Classy dresser
  • Bust—A man who makes his living in the prize ring, a pugilist.
  • Bun Duster—See “Cake Eater”.
  • Bush Hounds—Rustics and others outside of the Flapper pale.
  • Cancelled Stamp—A wallflower.
  • Cake Basket—A limousine.
  • Cake Eater—See “Crumb Gobbler”
  • Cat’s Particulars—The acme of perfection; anything that’s good
  • Cat’s Pajamas—Anything that’s good
  • Cellar Smeller—A young man who always turns up where liquor is to be had without cost.
  • Clothesline—One who tells neighborhood secrets.
  • Corn Shredder—Young man who dances on a girl’s feet.
  • Crepe Hanger—Reformer.
  • Crumb Gobbler—Slightly sissy tea hound.
  • Crasher—Anyone who comes to parties uninvited.
  • Crashing Party—Party where several young men in a group go uninvited.
  • Cuddle Cootie—Young man who takes a girl for a ride on a bus, gas wagon or automobile.
  • Cuddler—One who likes petting.
  • Dapper—A flapper’s father.
  • Dewdropper—Young man who does not work, and sleeps all day.
  • Dincher—A half-smoked cigarette.
  • Dingle Dangler—One who insists on telephoning.
  • Dipe Ducat—A subway ticket.
  • Dimbox—A taxicab.
  • Di Mi—Goodness.
  • Dogs—Feet.
  • Dog Kennels—Pair of shoes.
  • Dropping the Pilot—Getting a divorce.
  • Dumbdora—Stupid girl.
  • Duck’s Quack—The best thing ever.
  • Ducky—General term of approbation.
  • Dud—Wallflower.
  • Dudding Up—Dressing.
  • Dumbbell-Wall flower with little brains.
  • Dumkuff—General term for being “nutty” or “batty”.
  • Edisoned—Being asked a lot of questions.
  • Egg Harbor—Free dance.
  • Embalmer—A bootlegger.
  • Eye Opener—A marriage.
  • Father Time—Any man over 30 years of age.
  • Face Stretcher—Old maid who tries to look younger.
  • Feathers—Light conversation.
  • Fire Extinguisher—A chaperone.
  • Finale Hopper—Young man who arrives after everything is paid for.
  • Fire Alarm—Divorced woman.
  • Fire Bell—Married woman.
  • Flap—Girl
  • Flat Shoes—Fight between a Flapper and her Goof
  • Fluky—Funny, odd, peculiar; different.
  • Flatwheeler—Slat shy of money; takes girls to free affairs.
  • Floorflusher—Inveterate dance hound.
  • Flour Lover—Girl who powders too freely.
  • Forty-Niner—Man who is prospecting for a rich wife.
  • Frog’s Eyebrows—Nice, fine.
  • Gander—Process of duding up.
  • Green Glorious—Money and checks.
  • Gimlet—A chronic bore.
  • Given the Air—When a girl or fellow is thrown down on a date.
  • Give Your Knee—Cheek-to-cheek or toe-to-toe dancing.
  • Goofy—To be in love with, or attracted to. Example: “I’m goofy about Jack.”
  • Goat’s Whiskers—See “Cat’s Particulars”
  • Goof—Sweetie.
  • Grummy—In the dumps, shades or blue.
  • Grubber—One who always borrows cigarettes.
  • Handcuff—Engagement ring.
  • Hen Coop—A beauty parlor.
  • His Blue Serge—His sweetheart.
  • Highjohn—Young man friend; sweetie, cutey, highboy.
  • Hopper—Dancer.
  • Houdini—To be on time for a date.
  • Horse Prancer—See “Corn Shredder”.
  • Hush Money—Allowance from father.
  • Jane—A girl who meets you on the stoop.
  • Johnnie Walker—Guy who never hires a cab.
  • Kitten’s Ankles—See “Cat’s Particulars”.
  • Kluck—Dumb, but happy.
  • Lap—Drink.
  • Lallygagger—A young man addicted to attempts at hallway spooning.
  • Lens Louise—A person given to monopolizing conversation.
  • Lemon Squeezer—An elevator.
  • Low Lid—The opposite of highbrow.
  • Mad Money—Carfare home if she has a fight with her escort.
  • Meringue—Personality.
  • Monkey’s Eyebrows—See “Cat’s Particulars”.
  • Monog—A young person of either sex who is goofy about only one person at a time.
  • Monologist—Young man who hates to talk about himself.
  • Mustard Plaster—Unwelcome guy who sticks around.
  • Munitions—Face powder and rouge.
  • Mug—To osculate or kiss.
  • Necker—A petter who puts her arms around a boy’s neck.
  • Noodle Juice—Tea.
  • Nosebaggery—Restaurant.
  • Nut Cracker—Policeman’s nightstick.
  • Obituary Notice—Dunning letter.
  • Oilcan—An imposter.
  • Orchid—Anything that is expensive.
  • Out on Parole—A person who has been divorced.
  • Petting Pantry—Movie.
  • Petting Party—A party devoted to hugging.
  • Petter—A loveable person; one who enjoys to caress.
  • Pillow Case—Young man who is full of feathers.
  • Police Dog—Young man to whom one is engaged.
  • Potato—A young man shy of brains.
  • Ritzy Burg—Not classy.
  • Ritz—Stuck-up.
  • Rock of Ages—Any woman over 30 years of age.
  • Rug Hopper—Young man who never takes a girl out. A parlor hound.
  • Sap—A Flapper term for floorflusher.
  • Scandal—A short term for Scandal Walk.
  • Scandaler—A dance floor fullback. The interior of a dreadnaught hat, Piccadilly shoes with open plumbing, size 13.
  • Seetie—Anybody a flapper hates.
  • Sharpshooter—One who spends much and dances well.
  • Shifter—Another species of flapper.
  • Show Case—Rich man’s wife with jewels.
  • Sip—Flapper term for female Hopper.
  • Slat—See “Highjohn”; “Goof”.
  • Slimp—Cheapskate or “one way guy”.
  • Smith Brothers—Guys who never cough up.
  • Smoke Eater—A girl cigarette user.
  • Smooth—Guy who does not keep his word.
  • Snake—To call a victim with vampire arms.
  • Snuggleup—A man fond of petting and petting parties.
  • Sod Buster—An undertaker.
  • Stilts—Legs.
  • Stander—Victim of a female grafter.
  • Static—Conversations that mean nothing.
  • Strike Breaker—A young woman who goes with her friend’s “Steady” while there is a coolness.
  • Swan—Glide gracefully.
  • Tomato—A young woman shy of brains.
  • Trotzky (sic)—Old lady with a moustache and chin whiskers.
  • Umbrella—young man any girl can borrow for the evening.
  • Urban Set—Her new gown.
  • Walk In—Young man who goes to a party without being invited.
  • Weasel—Girl stealer.
  • Weed—Flapper who takes risks.
  • Weeping Willow—See “Crepe Hanger”
  • Whangdoodle—Jazz-band music.
  • Whiskbroom—Any man who wears whiskers.
  • Wind Sucker—Any person given to boasting.
  • Wurp—Killjoy or drawback.

Word by Word Book Review

When I retired from the Army I did so with very little fan fare.  My boss at the time asked me how we could celebrate my departure and if I wanted anything.  In my last few months in the building one of my activities was to rummage through lesser used portions of our office space and clean up the clutter.  One item in the clutter was a 1980’s printing of Webster’s 3rd Unabridged, A Dictionary.

I told my boss that I’d just like to take the dictionary with me and if folks wanted to write nice things on the inside couple of pages, I’d be happy as a clam.  They did, and I have very lovely sentiments on the inside few pages.

20 years in the military.  2 deployments to Iraq.  One deployment to Afghanistan.  Retirement, and I chose the dictionary.

Why?  Because I love words and the process of how they’re created and added to the language.  So, when my favorite language podcast (yes there is such a thing) featured an interview with a lexicographer, I pay attention, add the lexicographer’s book to my Audible wish list, and only just recently got to listening and finishing the book.

Wow!  What a book!

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper is an excellently narrated look at the way dictionaries are created, the controversies created by the results of their formulaic methodology, and the struggle to adapt a company to the digital age.

Calling it the Secret Life of Dictionaries is just about the most perfect name for it because the author truly exposes the system behind how these words got there!  Kory’s telling (she narrates the audio book herself) carries all the excitement and passion of someone who truly loves words and their creation.  I was doubly thankful that she narrated the book herself because the sections on pronunciation of certain sounds would not be the same had they hired out the talent.  There are some real humdingers in the text!

black and white book business close up

Kory manages to successfully navigate the reader through the subject matter with grace and encourage increased curiosity.  Many books of this subject matter or this size tend to expose the author’s laziness in writing, but Kory overcomes these with style.  Her writing was so successful that now the people I work with (I was only technically retired for three days before I started my next job) consider me even weirder than I was already.  Why?  Because I was so engaged with the book that I wanted to share?  Isn’t that just human nature?

When I shared what I was learning with my coworkers their facial expressions were priceless.  I think I’ve had more than a dozen conversations with coworkers that have gone along the lines of…

Tom, I’m reading a new book on how dictionaries are created and did you know there’s a word for that familiarity you have with a language?  It’s called Sprachgefühl.  It comes from German and it’s pretty neat that we’ve adopted it into.. [interrupted]

Wait a second!  Did you say you’re reading a book about how dictionaries are created? [facepalm]

Yes, and it’s fascinating.  Did you know that irregardless is actually a word that’s been in use since the 1700’s?  Ravel, and unravel mean the same thing!  Who knew, right?

I’m no where near close to losing my job over this, but there has been talk in the office suggesting that something must be wrong with me because I fell in love with a book about dictionaries.  It’s not my fault that when I was interviewed for my current position they never asked me what the last job gave me for a parting gift.  If they had, I would have told them.  We could have gotten this out in the open months ago.

Kory’s book warrants addition to the list of books I’d recommend to my mother, and if I’m going to recommend it to my mom, I think it’s safe to recommend it to the fair readers of this blog.  Although, I will warn my mother that her sensitivities to the less than polite words might be triggered as Kory is more free with her vernacular than my mother may be used to.  Still, I did not find the language overly aggressive or inappropriate.  It does figure that someone who is as familiar with words as a lexicographer is entitled to freely use all the words she’s had to define over the years.

abstract board game bundle business

None of this curiosity would have been possible without something snapping a few years ago when I started noticing there was a world of systems around me that had been virtually invisible.  Exploring those systems has increased my gratitude and my understanding tremendously.  Thank you, Mrs. Stamper, for sharing the system that has lead to a new appreciation for the very words I use to dress my thoughts and their shared meaning that we capture like butterflies and place gently into the dictionary.